Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Luke's Listening to

Here's my unofficial, completely subjective, likely to change list of my five favorite podcasts as of today:

5. Smart People Podcast - One I recently started listening to. It's shorter (about 30 minutes) and is two guys who, admittedly, are not smart. However, they interview smart people. Really smart people. Like people who make smart people feel like they're not smart. I particularly enjoyed their most recent episode in which they talked to Mark Malkoff, who has done such (notable?) things as watch 252 movies on Netflix in one month because he wanted to see how he could maximize his value of the $7.99 he was spending for the service. (It came out to between 12 and 17 hours a day watching movies). He also visited and purchased something from each of the 171 Starbucks in Manhattan, just because he could.

4. The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe - This is exactly what it sounds like. A guy named Rany and a guy named Joe talking about baseball. However, these two guys were among the founders of Baseball Prospectus, a website that examines (and in many cases, creates) advanced statistics to better understand baseball. I can't say this is a podcast I'd recommend for a casual baseball fan, but for someone who wants to understand finer points of the game and how it's evaluated, it's certainly a must listen. This one tends to run an hour or more, with their recent playoff and World Series episodes going more than 90 minutes. Sometimes they delve a bit too much into the minutia of the game (I really didn't need a 10 minute tangent on the value of David Eckstein to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007), but any time you can get two smart people debating a topic, you're bound to learn something.

3. Baseball Today (Tues-Thurs. editions) - While The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe take the time to dig deep into the game, Baseball Today just just what you'd expect a podcast with that name to do. It looks at the game on a day-to-day basis, recapping games from the night before, previewing that day's slate of games and analyzing/interpreting what we've seen so far in the season. I specify the Tuesday-Thursday editions because that's when Keith Law is on. He's among the best at making advanced statistical analysis make sense to someone who doesn't understand all the math that goes in to some of the equations. Host Eric Karabell's enthusiasm is evident and he really seems to enjoy doing the show. It's usually about 40-50 minutes long.

2. Fantasy Focus (Baseball and, to a lesser extent, football) -  The 12th most popular popular fantasy podcast (according to their theme song), the three-time award winning podcast is a blend of fantasy analysis and nonsense. The show has spawned both and the counterwebsite It runs anywhere from 25 minutes (when they do both football and baseball podcast, typically mid-August through September) to a little more than an hour (Mondays and Fridays during football season.) Host Nate Ravitz (he of the is or is not a weasel website fame) and analyst Matthew Berry have excellent chemistry and seem to genuinely like each other. There are enough inside jokes that a glossary was created for new fans who want to get in on the inside jokes.

1. Slate's Hang Up and Listen - Every Monday night, I look forward to a tweet letting me know the latest episode has posted. Every Tuesday morning, I look forward to an hour of smart commentary that looks at everything from doping in cycling to the hockey lockout to how media narratives in sports color our view of what we watching. The show's format is fairly simple. Three guys talk about three different topics each week, each for between 15-20 minutes, and an "afterball" segment where each guy gets about 3 minutes to opine on whatever tickles their fancy at the moment. Typically there's at least one and sometimes two guests, usually due to the fact they need an expert on a certain topic before discussing it.

So there you have it. Not that you asked for it, but there it is.

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